Sunoco Challenge: Middleton and Tregurtha throw down Whelen gauntlet as Parfitt Jnr seizes 240 lead
Rick Parfitt Jnr moved to the head of the Sunoco 240 Challenge standings for the first time this season last weekend, while Stuart Middleton and Will Tregurtha also closed in on Whelen top-spot as the race to crown 2018’s champions intensified at Brands Hatch where British GT and Mini Challenge JCW both staged their latest rounds.
Whelen: Middleton and Tregurtha pounce as Lanan duo’s challenge falters
With current leader Colin Noble Jnr not in action for another week, British GT’s GT3 and GT4 Pro continent had an opportunity to reduce their deficits in Kent.
Alex Reed and David Pittard went into the event as the LMP3 Cup ace’s nearest challengers, but left with their Daytona 24 Hours prize drive chances and GT4 title hopes in serious doubt after suffering a mechanical issue.
Their misfortune played into Tregurtha and Middleton’s hands as the HHC Motorsport duo extended their GT4 championship advantage and made ground on Noble Jnr. Third place helped the latter leapfrog both Pittard and Reed into second after improving his season’s average score by 0.76 points, while Tregurtha’s additional marks for also setting fastest lap boosted his by 3.81.
Noble Jnr, still on 78.88, therefore leads Middleton by 2.49 points heading into LMP3 Cup’s penultimate round at Snetterton this weekend, while Tregurtha is a further 2.45 points behind.
Meanwhile, Pittard and Reed have slipped 11.05 marks adrift and down to joint-fourth thanks to their raceday nightmare. That’s just 0.08 points ahead of LMP3 Cup title protagonist Matt Bell and another 1.5 clear of Stuart Moseley (Radical SR3 European Masters).
A GT3 podium helped Sam Tordoff climb six places to eighth, and Joe Osborne - who set fastest time in GT4 Pro qualifying before finishing second - vaulted seven spots to ninth. Jon Barnes moves up two positions to complete the top-10 at the expense of Macmillan AMR co-drivers James Littlejohn and Jack Mitchell whose DNF has dropped them to joint 14th.
Click here for the complete Sunoco Whelen Challenge standings.
240: Parfitt Jnr overhauls Hawkins. For now…
Rick Parfitt Jnr claimed British GT3 victory and fastest Am lap at Brands Hatch to not only boost his championship chances but also move to the top of Sunoco’s 240 Challenge standings.
120 points courtesy of a strong weekend’s work boosted his season’s average by 4.12 to 99 points, 3.55 more than long-time 240 Challenge leader Jessica Hawkins who resumes her Mini Challenge Cooper campaign at Oulton Park in two weeks.
Parfitt Jnr’s GT3 championship rival Jon Minshaw was level on Sunoco 240 Challenge points before Brands Hatch, but lost a little ground despite his fastest Am qualifying lap largely countering a fifth place finish. The Lamborghini driver is now on 93.5, 5.5 shy of the lead but still in contention with one British GT round remaining.
Hawkins’ Cooper rival Matt Hammond remains very much in contention in fourth. He’s just 6.27 points behind Parfitt Jnr and, crucially, has three more Mini Challenge events with which to improve his average score.
Brett Smith was the only other driver inside the top-10 in action last weekend, and Mini Challenge’s runaway JCW class leader made the most of his outing by picking up points for one pole and two podiums (including a win). That’s seen his average score increase by 1.01, although he remains 7.57 points behind Parfitt Jnr with two JCW events still to come.
The rest of the top-10 remains largely unchanged with F3 Cup front-runners Shane Kelly and Jacopo Sebastini sandwiching leading LMP3 Cup Am contender Alasdair McCaig, while Radical Challenge driver Bradley Smith occupies ninth.
But another tough British GT4 weekend for Graham Johnson has seen GT Cup’s Dominic Paul take his place in 10th.
Noble Jnr has a chance to extend his Whelen lead when Snetterton welcomes the penultimate round of LMP3 Cup, as well as GT Cup and F3 Cup, this coming weekend. That’s followed a week later by JCW and Cooper trips to Oulton Park for this year’s Mini Festival where the likes of Hawkins, Hammond and Smith all have another opportunity to re-assert themselves.
Click here for the complete Sunoco 240 Challenge standings.
Upcoming Sunoco Challenge-eligible events:
Aug 11-13 - Snetterton - LMP3 Cup, GT Cup, F3 Cup
Aug 18-19 - Oulton Park - Mini Challenge JCW, Cooper
Sep 01-03 - Silverstone - Radical European Masters
Donington Park - Britcar Endurance Championship
What are the Sunoco Challenges?
The Sunoco Challenges provide an accurate assessment and comparison of performances across multiple championships during any given season. Points are awarded for qualifying and race results, including fastest lap, which are then converted into an individual average score for each competing driver over the course of a full campaign.
That means each race weekend offers drivers an equal chance to climb and drop down their respective Sunoco Challenge table. It also ensures that performances are taken into consideration across an entire season while placing less emphasis on one-off or unfair results.
As in previous years this season’s Sunoco Whelen Challenge champion will win a fully funded drive aboard a Whelen-sponsored sports-prototype in the 2018 Daytona 24 Hours.
Meanwhile, Sunoco’s 240 Challenge champion will contest the 240-minute Daytona support race held over the same January weekend at the wheel of a Sunoco-liveried GT4 car.